Lilian Min
May 28, 2015 11:48 am

Real talk: One of the best parts of the current ’90s nostalgia is the resurgence of the crop top. Ignore all that talk about who “can” or “can’t” pull off the trend: Do you have a torso? Would you like to air it out with a style built for that exact design? Cool, you’re set. But in a case all too familiar, female students who partake in the trend are being singled out by administrators and forced to defend their showing of skin as not being “sexual or provocative.”

Such was the case for Alexi Halket in Toronto, who was called out by a male teacher for wearing a shirt that looked “too much like a sports bra.” Never mind the fact that in a high school, it’s completely likely that girls will be wearing sports bras during team workouts and practices and that there will be boys doing both shirtless; Halket actually had to walk her principal through her reasoning that exposing her belly skin isn’t an inherently sexual thing, and was then still shamed for her clothing choices.

Her response afterward? To mobilize a school-wide effort for female students to wear crop tops or similarly belly-baring designs (including sports bras): #CropTopDay, as it was documented on social media, went live on Tuesday, which also happened to be Halket’s birthday.

But beyond the students who participated at her school, the movement gained support from other teen girls on the Internet, who added their own contributions to #CropTopDay:

Now, we know what naysayers will say: Dress codes are in place to keep students focused on their studies instead of each other; that’s part of the reasoning for uniforms as well. To which, well, anyone who’s been in school knows that you could literally cover students in sheets, and “distraction” will happen regardless, if not become the sole obsession. The point isn’t that all female students want to wear crop tops, but that in schools which don’t require uniforms, dress code enforcement is much harsher and policing on teen girls, the segment of the population most attuned to commercial trends and most marketed to about those trends.

It’s incongruous and strange that given how aggressively the fashion industry continues to target and shape teen girl style, people blame the girls who buy into those products and the confidence they bring them rather than the companies that produce and schill those styles. Think of the low-waisted jeans of the ’90s, or the high hemlines of the ’60s, or the spaghetti straps of the ’00s — to this day, I can remember the humiliation of having a teacher scrutinize the width of your strap. Because it’s always teachers and administrators, not students themselves, who point out the appropriateness of girls’ clothing. And if they’re being distracted by their students in that way, then perhaps they’re in the wrong field.

(Images via here, here, here, and here.)

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